I've often wondered what's going to happen to all those ill-advised Facebook pictures when my generation starts holding political office. It's starting right now, actually. I'm 24, and the youngest congressman currently in office is Adam Putnam, the 27-year old from Florida's 12th district. [The GW Hatchet] I'd say he qualifies as being in my generation.
So was Putnam just more forward-thinking, wiser than the rest of us in his college days? Those pictures of Joe or Jane doing a keg stand don't just disappear. My guess is if they don't catch up with Mr. Putnam, they will start haunting other young people with political ambitions very soon.
The next question is this: How will that type of picture be categorized by the public? Will they be brushed off as a mistake of youth, something that most of us engaged in and then grew out of, or will they be blown up and held as evidence that a particular person is unfit for office? President Obama didn't have to deal with the proliferation of cameras that are around now, but he was candid about his drug use, and now he's president. That's evidence that the public is holding public officials to the lower, albeit more realistic, standards to which most of us hold our peers.
But photographs have a different effect on the senses than words do. Would a picture of President Obama snorting that line of white powder have had the same effect as his verbal admission? The picture would have had a more powerful negative effect, right?
I guess we'll see in the next few years. The moral of the story? It's the same as my dad always told me growing up: Don't do anything that you wouldn't do with your parents standing behind you. My own addendum: For goodness' sake, don't do it in public.